Scenery-Chewing Shuster Assails Ajami for Defending Libby

July 6th, 2007 9:04 PM

In all the time I've been monitoring the liberal media, rarely have I seen a host assail a guest with the ferocity David Shuster displayed in going after Fouad Ajami today. Shuster, guest-hosting for Chris Matthews on this afternoon's Hardball, was seemingly infuriated by a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece Ajami had written that analogized Scooter Libby to a fallen comrade who, pursuant to the Soldier's Creed, should not be left behind.

Set forth below are excerpts from Shuster's diatribe against Ajami, the Lebanese-born Director of the Middle East Studies Program at Johns Hopkins. But words alone don't do justice to the vituperation with which Shuster expressed himself. I urge readers to view the video. I might note that Ajami, perhaps inured to hyperbole by his many years in the Middle East, reacted to Shuster's verbal assaultswith equanimity.

SHUSTER: Mr. Ajami [never does Shuster refer to him by the honorific "Professor"], do you really believe Scooter Libby is like the 3,600 soldiers killed in Iraq?

AJAMI: I really don't need to be lectured on the soldiers killed in Iraq. I spent an enormous amount of time in Iraq. I've spent an enormous amount of time with the American soldiers in Iraq . . . I have a nephew serving with the American military as a lieutentant . . .

SHUSTER, interrupting: Which makes all this even more puzzling, with all due respect Mr. Ajami , to take someone like Scooter Libby and to compare him with somebody like your nephew or somebody who's actually wearing the uniform raises an awful lot of questions, and we're just trying to get at those questions [right].

AJAMI: You're following in the footsteps of Paul Krugman, who had a column in the New York Times. You have to be able to handle a metaphor. This really was a metaphor . . .

SHUSTER: Mr. Ajami, if it was a metaphor, why didn't you point out that it was a metaphor in your column? "Metaphor" is never in your column.

Great point. I've often wondered why Shakespeare didn't do that, like when in Macbeth he called life "a poor player." What's up with that? Where was the metaphor alert?

AJAMI: I just meant, here was this man . . . people are walking away from him, they left him holding the bag, and we know he hadn't been the one who leaked the name of Valerie Plame . . .

SHUSTER: I've got to stop you right there. I know where you're going with this . . . as if there was just one leaker . . . So for you to say that we know that Scooter Libby wasn't the leaker, that is simply wrong . . . and if you had followed the prosecutor you would know there was no underlying crime he could charge. The whole issue was that because Scooter Libby lied and obstructed the investigation, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was not able to make a call.

And later, more SHUSTER:

  • Prosecutors do suspect that yes. there were many people involved in this, including the Vice-President, but when Scooter Libby testified to the grand jury as he did and said yes, I had conversations with the Vice-President about Valerie Wilson but, oh, I can't remember what the Vice-President told me, come on, Mr. Ajami, you know better than that.

  • A lot of people, Mr. Ajami, find it very offensive that you would dare compare Scooter Libby to soliders who have had their limbs blown off in Iraq

  • Mr. Ajami, would you like to apologize for your position on the Iraq war given that Iraq has created more al-Qaeda than it had to begin with?

  • Mr. Ajami, I'm not going to let you end this with the idea that Iraq was part of 9-11 when everybody knows, everybody knows, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. [Ajami had in fact done no such thing.]

Could Shuster's scenery-chewing performance have been sincere, or was this an audition for Keith Olbermann's slot?

Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at